Students spend spring break aiding ongoing Hurricane Katrina cleanup
RELEASED: March 27, 2008
DANVILLE—As the beaches along U.S. coasts were recently packed with the annual crowd of college students on spring break, 13 members of the Centre College community made a 12-hour drive to trade their flip-flops for work boots and lend a hand to the townspeople of Bay Saint Louis, Miss.
The service project is part of a national endeavor, organized by United Way, called Alternative Spring Break (ASB). Two years ago, United Way began teaming up with local communities across the Gulf Coast to mobilize the power, energy and dedication of young adults to help rebuild after the devastation of Hurricanes Ivan, Katrina and Rita.
"When Centre students heard that there were families still living in tents, others continuing the struggle to rebuild, now two-and-a-half years after the storm, they jumped at the opportunity to lend a hand and help in whatever way possible," says Patrick Noltemeyer, director of volunteer services at Centre.
Noltemeyer mobilized members of the service-oriented Bonner Program and other members of the community when Mary Burchett '08 approached him with the idea earlier this year. Burchett says, "I'd been to the area before and felt a commitment to go back."
Molly Housley '09 says, "Centre will support and help any student who wishes to help the community. President Roush and his wife, Susie, even gave each of us $25 to start off our fundraising."
The work wasn't easy or short, but many students took inspiration from survivors who recounted their tragic stories of the storm and their lives during the aftermath.
"We had the privilege to help a woman who had just gotten back from the Navy Reserve and hadn't seen her house since the storm," Housley says. "Her house was completely gone—the neighbors said that it had floated down the street—and her lot was covered in trash. With 25 volunteers, it took only two hours to completely clean her lawn; it was more than she could have done in weeks on her own. "
Housley continues: "This woman had lost everything, but she still had such a positive perspective on life. She showed me a watch that she bought before the storm, which she thought was too fancy to wear around the house. When she got back, it was the only possession she had, and now she wears it every day. This woman's outlook on life, her perseverance, her genuineness and her thankfulness made the entire trip worthwhile."
Describing the vibe of the trip, Noltemeyer recalls a students saying, "It's not 'giving up' my spring break, it's taking advantage of it to make a positive difference in the lives of others."
Jasmon Dixon '10 agrees. "We all had a common mindset and the same goal, and everyone brought something unique that created this melting pot of progress and change."
Many Centre students recognize the value of service, approaching it with fervor and enthusiasm. Perhaps it's the wisdom that comes with volunteering to help others. Rachel Hosmer '09 sums it up best: "The common theme I continue to relearn with service is that I gain more from the experience than the ones I serve. This was certainly true with my trip to Mississippi."
For more information regarding the Bonner Program at Centre and other service opportunities, click here.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
For news archives go to http://www.centre.edu/web/news/newsarchive.html.
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